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The Future of eCommerce is Fulfilment

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We have been working closely with The University of Cambridge, Institute of Manufacturing (IfM) on a joint research project. The research is looking at the application of product intelligence and smart warehousing. It is hoped that by employing product intelligence we will provide a new way of optimising our warehousing and fulfilment decisions which will enable us to be more efficient and reduce the time from product delivery, picking and packing to order dispatch.

We will be presenting the finding of the joint research project at an event eCommerce Strategies for the Future at the IfM on 9 October 2013.  Full details of the event are at the bottom of this article.


Modern eCommerce Fulfilment houses in the UK work with online retailers to help them fulfil online orders, by offering a pick and pack service over the cloud. Goods are stored in a central warehouse which is in turn managed by cloud software enabling real-time data exchange between stores, packers and clients.

The leading companies have solved and further improved a number of issues present in the warehousing industry with regard to data caching and non-real time transfers, but more ingrained is the lack of information flow within the warehouse itself. Many of the decisions that need to be made each day are in principle very simple, but when multiplied up to thousands of activities and products become impossible to solve. product intelligence offers a new way of optimising these multi-dependency decisions and it is hoped it will enable fulfilment houses to run more efficiently as well as reduce the lead time from product delivery to order dispatch.

For example, the biggest problems by far are deciding which orders to pack - where there is a trade off between efficient pick routes and order priority - and deciding where to store inventory so as to enable optimised pick routes and storage. The use of product intelligence for order fulfilment would mean that each order or each product would decide what it wants to do (based on its requirements and needs). In each case this would allow us to make decisions in a short time frame - something which, given the number of variables and possibilities, is not currently possible.

Shelves would know about their own dimensions and their current space availability to be able to flag themselves as appropriate options to products. Products themselves would be able to know their own size, what other products are likely to be ordered with (and where these are currently stored), how often they will be purchased and whether they have special storage requirements; before choosing an optimal storage location.

Orders already know about their priority and how long they have been queued in the system, but they would need an awareness of other similar orders and where products could be found to optimise picking routes. Decisions here may seem trivial, but there are many conflicting interests in the warehouse. There is a real danger that a system which prioritises efficiency may leave behind an order which requires a slow moving product which is off the best route, creating delays. So any intelligence needs to consider the time of day, warehouse work rate and any backlog before making decisions.

There are some tickets still available to attend our free event. Please contact us to book your places.

Speakers at the event include: Chris Dawson of Tamebay, Prof. McFarlane of IfM, Dr. Giannikas of IfM and James Hyde of James and James Fulfilment.

They will focus on the following areas

The Future of eCommerce

The changing demands of customers and their effects on multichannel sellers

Changing Demands of eCommerce on Fulfilment

Strategies to cope with increasing demand

How Product intelligence Can Make a Difference 

Picking faster and more intelligently to meet growing customer expectations

See you there!

September 19th, 2013 by Hannah Newman

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